Brunswick-Lüneburg, Ernst August of Brunswick, Frederica of Hanover, George II of the Hellenes, German Emperor Wilhelm II, Paul I of the Hellenes, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Queen of the Hellenes, Sofia of Spain, Titles Deprivation Act 1917, Victoria Louise of Prussia
Frederica of Hanover (18, April 1917 – February 6, 1981) was Queen consort of the Hellenes from 1947 until 1964 as the wife of King Paul, thereafter Queen mother during the reign of her son, King Constantine II.
Born Her Royal Highness Friederica, Princess of Hanover, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, and Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg on April 18, 1917 in Blankenburg am Harz, in the German Duchy of Brunswick, she was the only daughter and third child of Ernst August, then reigning Duke of Brunswick, and his wife Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, herself the only daughter of the German Emperor Wilhelm II.
Both her father and maternal grandfather abdicated their thrones in November 1918 following Germany’s defeat in World War I, and her paternal grandfather, Ernest Augustus, Crown Prince of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, was stripped of his British Royal Dukedom the following year, for having sided with Germany in World War I.
Her paternal grandfather, Ernest Augustus of Hanover and Duke of Cumberland was the most senior male-line descendant of George I, II, and III, the Duke of Cumberland of Great Britain and was the last Hanoverian Prince to hold a British royal title and the Order of the Garter.
In 1914 the title of a Prince of Great Britain and Ireland was additionally granted to the members of the house by King George V. These peerages and titles however were suspended under the Titles Deprivation Act 1917.
However, the title Royal Prince of Great Britain and Ireland had been entered into the family’s German passports, together with the German titles, in 1914. After the German Revolution of 1918–19, with the abolishment of nobility’s privileges, titles officially became parts of the last name. So, curiously, the British prince’s title is still part of the family’s last name in their German passports, while it is no longer mentioned in their British documents.
On 29 August 1931, Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick, as head of the House of Hanover, declared the formal resumption, for himself and his dynastic descendants, of use of his former British princely title as a secondary title of pretense, which style, “Royal Prince of Great Britain and Ireland”, his grandson, the current head of the house, also called Ernst August, continues to claim.
In 1934, Adolf Hitler, in his ambition to link the British and German royal houses, asked for Frederica’s parents to arrange for the marriage of their seventeen-year-old daughter to Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales.
In her memoirs, Frederica’s mother described that she and her husband were “shattered” and such a possibility “had never entered our minds”. Victoria Louise herself had once been considered as a potential bride for the very same person prior to her marriage. Moreover, the age difference was too great (the Prince of Wales was twenty-three years Frederica’s senior), and her parents were unwilling to “put any such pressure” on their daughter.
To her family, she was known as Freddie.
Prince Paul of Greece proposed to her during the summer of 1936, while he was in Berlin attending the 1936 Summer Olympics. Paul was a son of King Constantine I and Frederica’s great aunt Sophia of Prussia, sister of German Emperor Wilhelm II.
Accordingly, they were maternal first cousins once removed. They were also paternal second cousins as great-grandchildren of Christian IX of Denmark. Their engagement was announced officially on September 28, 1937, and Britain’s King George VI gave his consent pursuant to the Royal Marriages Act 1772 on December 26, 1937.
They married in Athens on January 9, 1938. Frederica became Hereditary Princess of the Hellenes, her husband being heir presumptive to his childless elder brother, King George II.
During the early part of their marriage, they resided at a villa in Psychiko in the suburbs of Athens. Ten months after their marriage, their first child, the future Queen Sofia of Spain, was born on November 2, 1938. On June 2, 1940, Frederica gave birth to the future King Constantine II.
War and Exile
At the peak of World War II, in April 1941, the Greek Royal Family was evacuated to Crete in a Sunderland flying boat. Shortly afterwards, the German forces attacked Crete. Frederica and her family were evacuated again, setting up a government-in-exile office in London.
In exile, King George II and the rest of the Greek Royal Family settled in South Africa. Here Frederica’s last child, Princess Irene, was born on May 11, 1942. The South African leader, General Jan Smuts, served as her godfather. The family eventually settled in Egypt in February 1944.
After the war, the 1946 Greek referendum restored King George II to the throne. The Hereditary Prince and Princess returned to their villa in Psychiko.